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A Better Pillbox from MIT

Researchers at MIT have built a better pillbox.

The hurdles to taking medications are many. Patients forget their medications, purposefully don't take their medications, or accidentally take too much or too little. And sometimes, taking medications the wrong way can cause life-threatening complications, or can make the difference between the successful treatment of an severe infection -- like tuberculosis -- and the creation of a drug-resistant organism -- like MRSA or multi-drug resistant tuberculosis.

In order to overcome these barriers, scientists at MIT designed the uBox:
The first part of the two-component system is a kind of "smart" pillbox, called the uBox. It has 14 chambers that can each be loaded with several pills, which it dispenses from one chamber per day. To alert the patient that it's time to take the medicine, the box flashes its lights and sounds a buzzer. When the compartment is opened, the uBox records the exact time and prevents double-dosing by refusing to open again until the next treatment is due.

After two weeks, a health care worker reloads the box and digitally records and transmits the information stored in it. Doctors and public health services can then get complete data on compliance, patient by patient, in almost real time, instead of having to wait until the end of the six-month treatment.
The uBox will initially be used in Bihar, India, as part of a tuberculosis treatment program.

But there's a second component of the uBox which allows real-time communication between health care workers in remote areas and those monitoring the study. It's called the uPhone:
The second part of the group's new system is a cell phone, called the uPhone. By using special software, health care workers can record a patient's temperature, weight, and answers to a list of questions related to symptoms, which adds to the set of detailed patient data analyzed by doctors monitoring the study.

By looking at patterns of effects, the doctors can tell which field workers are achieving the best adherence rates with their patients and find out just what it is that those people are doing right. They can then be recruited to train additional workers...
More information about the uBox may be found at Technology Trends, MIT News, and Innovators in Health.
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About the Author


Dr. Schwimmer's blog explores the intersection of medicine, new technologies, and the Internet.